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My Brother Tom – as I Remember Him

Tom as a young boy

As his oldest sister I have probably more memories of Tom than anyone else. He was born October 29, 1951 to our parents, Henry and Elizabeth (Kroeker) Friesen, in the hospital in Rosthern, SK. He was the middle child of 5, as I came first, then Ernie, and after him, Elsie and Erma.

Off to a Slow Start in School

Tom had Bright’s disease, a kidney problem, when he started school. He was kept at home for a couple of months when he should have been learning to read. This led to a reading handicap the rest of his school years, which hindered him until he took upgrading classes later as an adult.

Tom dropped out to work as a Farmhand. His first job was for Peter Z. Neudorf, just outside of Hague. Later he heard of other opportunities, even in Alberta.

Back in Saskatoon, he met a girl who assured him she would be glad to live on a farm. So they were married. However, at his first farmhand job near Kindersley, he discovered that she had “allergies” to the barnyard.

He gave up his job and they moved to Saskatoon, where all he could find was washing floors in St. Paul’s Hospital. Tom decided to take upgrading so he could take a course as a farm machinery mechanic.

Some of his training courses were in North Battleford. There their daughters were born. Tom’s first job as a farm machinery mechanic was in Speers, then a better opportunity came up in Estevan (near the USA border).

Marriage tensions led to divorce in 1997. Tom felt wounded and angry, and found the emotional pain so hard he lost the ability to walk and had to settle into a wheelchair and go on Disability Pension.

The Walking Miracle Man!

One night in 1999 Tom woke up to feeling coursing through his numb legs. He got up and paced, wondering what to do.

In the morning he called his pastor who advised him to share the experience in church.

When he walked forward the congregation gave him a standing ovation! Everyone was excited about the miracle man who could walk again.

I was still living with Dad as his live-in caregiver, and we had Uncle Bill and Aunt Eunice visiting from Toronto, when Tom called to say he wanted to tell us about a miracle. We were shocked when he got out of his car; we had forgotten how tall he was! (Nor did he pull his wheelchair out from behind his driver’s seat). We rejoiced for Tom.

Tom and Uncle Bill when he came to show us he could walk again!

The healing only lasted 15 months. Tom took a Life Skills course and prepared for a new job – likely repairing wheelchairs. But one day, while checking his mail on the main floor of his apartment building, he discovered that his Disability Pension was cut off. This broke his fragile spirit and he fell to the floor, unable to walk again. He had to crawl to the elevator to go up to his apartment on the 6th floor.

He wanted to hear nothing of a fresh healing. Tom gave up.

His doctors advised him to find productive things to do, and to get out socially. So he kept up with events at Westgate Alliance Church. He picked up a hobby of Mom’s, starting with her left-over plastic canvas, and made things he could sell to the grandmas of the building. He even designed his own grain elevator, a red barn, and a gray quonset.

I went to bat for him to get his Disability Pension reinstated and we won – after many months.

Sask Housing found him a wheelchair accessible apartment in the King Edward Building right next to the Kinsmen Park. It was there his plastic canvas hobby gave way to going online to look at farm machinery models and buying them from eBay. After a while he was buying Collector cars too, and then semi-tanker trucks and various other vehicles as well.

Tom Watched a lot of Christian Interview Shows & Learned to Accept Himself as He was

He learned to forgive and let go.

My favourite photo of Tom

He socialized kindly with others often using playful puns.

Tom became less absorbed in his own pain. (physical and spiritual).

People saw him as a ‘gentle’ man.

 

On March 6th (2019) Tom woke at 3:30 am with a tremendous back pain – so he call an ambulance. At St. Paul’s hospital they did two c-scans. They called me at 8:30 am. Tom was asking for me.

In Emergency the nurse and the doctor explained to me that Tom had a tear on the inside layer of a major artery running the full length of his upper torso. It was not his back at all. Yet, all they could do was lower his blood pressure in hopes it would not burst.

When the doctor asked Tom what he thought of surgery, should they feel it would help, Tom replied, No thanks.” He was ready to go to his Maker.

I visited Tom every day in the hospital, and found him calm and looking forward to going to Heaven.

When I reported his situation on Facebook, I got an email from a cousin of ours who informed me about Loyes-Dietz Syndrome, a genetic condition to do with weak blood vessels that burst easily. He reported that he had been diagnosed with this and was suppose to alert relative to get tested for this.

I prepared a packet of information for Tom’s doctors, but they seemed to think it was too late to test Tom’s DNA. He passed away on April 12 very peacefully and just after he’d prayed a lovely evening prayer aloud.

During Tom’s last few weeks I discovered that he had appointed me as his Power of Attorney, and then also the Executor of his will. So now it was official; I was to take care of his collections, and clean out his apartment. Doing that put some strain on my back, so that I woke up the last Sunday of April with a pain that I recognized as a fractured vertebrae in my lower back. I had to slow down in May and June to recover over 8 weeks.

However, in July I prepared a small Memorial Service for him, and the burial of his ashes in the country cemetery where our parents and grandparents are buried. And… here I am starting the website to sell his collection, which consists of 80 boxes/cartons full of models. I hope, after some time, to work up to a pace of photographing and listing one box full of models each week. But that may take a while. πŸ™‚